What about CrossFit? Tuesday Q+A with John Sifferman

Greg Glassman

Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, looking approvingly upon “Pukie” the clown on this T-shirt.

This is a question I received months ago, and honestly didn’t want to take the time to answer.  CrossFit has become an emerging fitness program that is growing very fast, and it’s a VERY touchy subject with some people.  I knew that if I was going to publish my official opinion on CrossFit, it would take some precision, so as not to offend people.

Instead of going over all the aspects of CrossFit as an objective critic, I chose to highlight some of the most important points that I would want everyone to consider before joining a CrossFit gym or trying their workouts out.

At this point, I really don’t care.  I’m going to offend some of you.  Bring on the hate mail.

Here is my official stance on CrossFit, that I gave to a member of the Burn The Fat: Inner Circle forums.  Reader beware.

QUESTION: Hi Guys. I have a personal trainer colleague who is NSCA certified but has decided instead to go down the Crossfit path, like so many from around the world. He has realized that the other systems of training are missing sometimes one and sometimes a few components of total health and fitness. The Crossfit strength and conditioning program is based on ten fitness domains. Crossfit is not only for highly conditioned athletes but for grandparents and kids as well.

I’m seeking your professional opinion on the pro and cons and dangers, if any, about Crossfit. I too have taken my first steps onto the Crossfit path but am still a little skeptical. Your answers will be a major factor in helping me decide if the Crossfit path is the one I should or shouldn’t be on.

ANSWER: I’ve spent over a decade involved in formal strength and conditioning.  Over half of that time, I have been involved with coaching others.  Out of everything I have ever learned while being involved in the fitness and weight loss industry, this is one of the greatest lessons. There is not a single system that will do EVERYTHING when it comes to strength and fitness.

There is no such thing as the perfect system. Different methods and tools are appropriate for different jobs.  A strength coach whom I respect for his results-based approach to training, Alwyn Cosgrove, has said that you wouldn’t use a hammer to screw in a lightbulb.  The same should be true of training.  Specific goals are best achieved with specific tools – there is NO best tool for everyone and everything.  There is no one-size-fits-all.  Everyone is an individual, with a lifetime of conditioning behind their back.  The biggest mistake a personal trainer can make is to assume that his client is a “blank slate” when they show up for their first training session.  For every goal, there is a different, most optimal approach to achieving it.

I think CrossFit has some awesome advantages, like their community aspect, the competition factor, online and offline social support, and their hard work ethics. Like I said though, it isn’t the right tool for every job, and most CrossFitters I’ve encountered would like you to think it is. Personally, I see a few cons, including the somewhat cultish and dogmatic viewpoints of some CrossFitters, but I also see a lot of pros and I see how a certain segment of the population – in terms of their personality and disposition – would absolutely thrive on CrossFit training.

From a fitness system standpoint, I see one MAJOR flaw in the Crossfit methods – and that is the lack of specificity.

Glassman setup a definition of fitness to coincide with CrossFits beliefs. The CrossFit definition of fitness relies on a lot of attributes like strength, power, endurance, balance, etc. One’s ability to display strength and endurance by CrossFit standards (lifting weights, running 5k races, etc.) will lend itself to qualifying you as very fit or not.

Glassman would have you believe that an athlete can train for general fitness – and this is impossible because of the law of Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID). The body only adapts to specific stimulus, and these adaptations don’t carry over into the fictitious realm of “general fitness.” (read a blogpost on this by clicking here.)

To demonstrate this for example, you can’t train like a marathon runner, and expect to squat 600 lbs like a powerlifter. Conversely, you can’t train like a powerlifter, and expect to break a world record in a marathon. Both training styles are very specific to their purpose, and they don’t carry over to the other activity via general fitness adaptations.

CrossFit admits that they train to prepare people for as wide a variety of activities as possible. Their goal is not specificity, but to generalize training. Essentially, their goal is to get better at most things, but not to get really good at one or two things. I think they are succeeding in this area. Their clients are getting fitter, feeling healthier, enjoying physical activity, and feel mentally prepared to take on almost any challenge. However, put a CrossFit athlete in virtually any competitive arena, and his results will be shamefully lacking. Just like you won’t win bodybuilding competitions with CrossFit training. Likewise, a CrossFit athlete will likely not be the best powerlifter, olympic lifter, triathlete, or MMA fighter.

bad

CrossFit athlete executing a very poor overhead squat.

Fitness must progress into specificity and sophistication (doing more difficult movements), and it must take into account more than just attributes of training (strength, endurance, etc.). Also, all fitness training must be compensated for (even general physical preparedness). CrossFit does not address specificity, sophistication, or compensatory exercise, which I consider essential components of any fitness program.

My only other major concern is the breakdown of proper strength training technique that comes from fatigue, and especially so with high rep Olympic weightlifting. Working hard is important, and no doubt, one of the reasons CrossFit resonates so well with many people – it’s REALLY hard work, certainly not for the timid. However, if this work harder mentality is mis-applied to using poor form when exercising, it’s not safe and shouldn’t be encouraged. Using unsafe technique on any exercise repeatedly is a guaranteed ticket to injury or worse. And I see this time and time again with CrossFit workout videos.

There’s this idea that “it doesn’t matter how you get your chin over the bar, just DO IT!”

As long as you can add weight to your lifts, or shave time off of your WOD’s, you’re doing better – but it shouldn’t be at the detriment of your health and mobility.

Like I said, no single system does everything right. And my definition of right could be different from yours. Just take a global look at CrossFit before getting “sucked in,” and you’ll be fine.

With all of this in mind, I would encourage anyone to attend a CrossFit Certification Seminar, if able to. I would just recommend that you not use the “hammer” (Cross Fit) for every “job” (helping your client achieve their unique fitness goals). In my mind, even a flawed fitness system that gets American’s working hard is better than nothing, and I’m all for it. That said, there are much better alternatives out there, and I’ve shared many of them here on my site over the years.

Like Crossfit? But don’t like the downsides? Check out the TACFIT system here:

Interview with Scott Sonnon about TACFIT – The Premier “Tactical Fitness” System.

To your health and success,

Fitness Professional

P.S. I think there are better alternatives out there for those whom are interested well-rounded fitness. For example, I would recommend the TACFIT system to anyone that recognizes the obvious risks involved with CrossFit and wants something that will pack as much punch in terms of effectiveness, but is rooted in health-first strength and conditioning practices. If you want all the CrossFit has to offer in terms of conditioning (and then some IMO), and you want to stay injury-free for life, then I highly recommend looking into TACFIT. Each workout is comprised of 4 different levels of difficulty, meaning you have the option to customize the program to your needs and conditioning level  (no general WOD’s). You can learn more about it here: Interview with Scott Sonnon about TACFIT – The Premier “Tactical Fitness” System.

P.P.S. Be sure to check out the follow-up posts: Be careful who you talk to about CROSSFIT… and CrossFit at its Worst: Don’t Try This at Home!

27 comments to What about CrossFit? Tuesday Q+A with John Sifferman

  • Jan

    Hey, John, after reading this article on CrossFit over again and seeing the photo of Greg Glassman, it finally dawned on me that Greag was my very first trainer at Golds Gym in Santa Cruz, just before he started Cross Fit. I didn’t link the two until I saw the pic. I checked out the cross fit gym here about a year ago, watched lots of video and decided that it was an injury ready to happen. My friend, who has been a competetive runner all her life, got talked into Cross Fit and came down with Rhabdomyolysis which landed her in the hospital for about two days. I also did not link up that condition with cross fit…guess I made the right decision. I remember Greg as a tough trainer but not to the extreme I read about in a NYT article. Anyway, just an aside.

  • Agreed, you cannot *replace* sport-specific training with general fitness.

    A couple fact-checking details I’d like to help you with. CrossFit did define itself as optimizing across different aspects of fitness (the 10) for years. They’ve updated that definition, and now it’s truly imperialistic:

    Fitness is increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains.

    So they are (or Glassman is) defining fitness as work capacity for different tasks and across all metabolic pathways.

    The goal of CrossFit as I understand it is to optimize your fitness across these different ranges. They do recognize the tradeoffs — it’s implicit in all their definitions and mission statements — but they seek to optimize those tradeoffs. Sacrifice as little power as you can for your endurance; sacrifice as little endurance as you can for your strength, etc. And train in as broadly varied skill sets as you can: from calisthenics to rowing to biking to running to whatever… but only by varying the modes will you achieve a truly broad fitness.

    CrossFit has been very aware of the inevitable tradeoff between intensity and form — their trainers and Glassman address this in their certification seminars. A common metaphor: If you’re landing 100% of your shots in a 2 cm grouping, you are not moving fast enough. If you’re landing only 50% of your shots in that group, you’re moving too fast.

    …Again, the recognition that there is an inherent tradeoff, and the intent to optimize on that tradeoff. Walking that very fine line between intense performance and ideal form & technique is the challenge every crossfit athlete negotiates daily. But if you refused to confront that line, you’d be sacrificing one, or the other. And that’s where optimization lies: refusing to sacrifice too much of either. As a trainer, if you don’t push your athlete hard enough, you’re a disservice to his performance. And if you don’t demand excellent form & technique, you’re putting him at risk as well as detrimenting his performance.

    My interpretation of your take on CrossFit is that you’re enthusiastically in favor of it; only that your own training bailiwick is more specialized and established. I don’t think you’d take a solidly opposing view: “Yes, there’s a tradeoff between intensity and form and I happily sacrifice performance for ideal form. Too bad, my clients will have to look elsewhere for the metabolic conditioning and strength gains that comes from intensity.”

    I’m not sure you’ve quite worked through the “optimizing” approach to these tradeoffs and how they would be expressed in a general fitness program. What if you DID want to use the power of the olympic lift movements, AND use those to condition an athlete in the glycolytic and oxidative metabolic pathways? What would you do? What if you want to achieve those general fitness capacities… and you can’t afford multiple training sessions, you’re not a professional athlete… what if you wanted to introduce such optimized conditioning to a military unit, or a law enforcement academy, or firefighters’ training?

    Now, if I can answer defensively, for myself as a crossfit trainer but not for other crossfitters: I don’t think we’re trying to be everything, nor can we be perfect, for precisely the subjectivity of individuals that you cited. CrossFit is too well aware of this, however: because our system is so effective and so popular that we’re training tens of thousands of athletes daily and observing these performances in pretty well standardized workouts…. the individual variation is so obvious it hardly needs mentioning, to any experienced crossfit trainer.

    But again, it seems to me you’re quite an admirer of CrossFit and generally in favor of it. Thank you.

  • John

    Thanks for sharing that story, Jan. More people need to be aware of the dangers of jumping headfirst into any new fitness program, especially one as extreme as CrossFit.

  • John

    Hi Kirez,

    Thanks for your detailed explanation, and for the update on CrossFit’s definition of fitness – I hadn’t heard.

    I agree about the balance inherent within optimization of form versus intensity – anything else is futile when working with a client.

    You would be partially right to assume that I am an admirer and in favor of CrossFit. Like I said in the Q+A, there are things I definitely like about it, the community aspect, the fact that crossfitters actually have FUN when training, the hardcore attitude, and using more functional exercises than the more traditional bodybuilding-style programs of the past. From a fitness standpoint, I think CrossFit is above the norm in America, but not the pinnacle.

    There are definitely some things that worry me about CrossFit too, though, mostly in the area of fitness, and the process of working out that I’ve witnessed mostly from the videos. And take this criticism with a grain of salt – I’ve trained with CrossFit athletes before, but I’ve never been to a seminar to get the full experience.

    I see beginners being challenged too much on their first day or week of training – getting plopped into a hardcore workout from the start. Also, I don’t think anyone should progress into high intensity exercise until they can demonstrate it with near-perfect technique (like we’ve been discussing about the balance of form vs effort). When breathing, movement, and structure in any activity is compromised, it leads to micro-problems, that over time will develop into larger problems like injury or illness. Also, everything is an act of conditioning, even poorly performed repetitions – the body will condition itself to repeat those activities, and perform them even better (read “more poorly) the next time.

    My rule of thumb is not to increase effort until a technique can be maintained at 8 or higher (on a 1-10 scale, 10 being perfect technique, which is actually unachievable).

    I also think that CrossFit workouts prepare the body physically for doing better at CrossFit workouts, but not for other tasks like hobby’s or sports – at least directly. Again, this is largely up to the trainers and coaches, but the workouts seem too general for applicability to “real life” physical needs. Perhaps I’m just not aware of the crossfit method of peaking for an event or deadline.

    I won’t go so far to say that crossfitters don’t enjoy better performance in their chosen activity just from incorporating the workouts. However, I attribute this to the shotgun effect, of loading buckshot into the chamber and hoping your hit your target of better performance. The alternative is using a bolt action rifle, which takes more precise planning to achieve the exact performance increases. And there are tradeoff’s for each approach.

    The main problem I see could be solved if every coach and trainer took into account that their clients are not a blank slate as soon as they show up for training. Everyone has a lifetime of stored tension all throughout their body, tension that changes their breathing, structure (posture), and movement. This should be considered when training anyone.

    Example… no one should be put into an overhead squat with a barbell if they cannot achieve the same range of motion with perfect technique without a barbell (or even without a broomstick). If the range of motion cannot be reached without additional load, then there are already problems present in the body. Adding weight will only compound the problems.

    I’m sure these are things that trainers and coaches are aware of, and are dealing with as best they can. From the outside, it’s just hard to tell. Obviously, nobody at CrossFit means anyone physical harm through improper training. I don’t think any personal trainer would. You’ve done your part and thought these things through as a trainer, and I admire that.

    Thank you for sharing. Let’s continue this discussion, if you’re interested.

  • Great post, John and I agree with you. I am noticing how crossfit trainers and specific crossfit centers are more and more not embracing all of the core tenants of the crossfit phiolosopy. As far as Glassman, I have never heard him be compromising in any way. This “trade-off” that was disscussed by Kirez sounds really good to TALK about but it is pie-in-the-sky.

    I certainly don’t see any strategy in the WOD’s which seem decidedly random. I’m afraid I’m a little less optimistic about it than you, but I agree with most of what you say, for sure.

    Just discovered your site, John, and I like, so far, what you are doing.

  • John

    I hear you Eric. Watching the CrossFit workout videos they post regularly has me worried that many people are erring a little too far on the side of poor form, high intensity. I just don’t see people who move well, and especially under load. Yes, CrossFit athletes can do a LOT of work – their work capacity is excellent. And it makes sense too, since it is the main aspect of their philosophy of fitness = increase work capacity.

    Like I said above, what may seem like a negligible error in technique now will progress into much more if left unchecked. Everything is an act of conditioning. If we condition ourselves using poor technique, it will condition us until injury or worse.

    you wrote:
    “I certainly don’t see any strategy in the WOD’s which seem decidedly random.”

    This is also where CrossFit loses me. How can one train for different goals when everyone is following the same program, with minor adjustments for individualization. Following the CrossFit WOD’s strictly will not prepare someone to be a better skiier, dancer, backpacker, soccer player, etc. CrossFit workouts will condition your body to be better at CrossFit, and you will get some body composition changes if you are on track with nutrition, rest, stress levels, etc.

    I try to be optimistic as much as I can. They’re doing a good thing really, trying to get a specific type of person to exercise, and I’m all for that with our culture. I just wish there was more attention paid to the individual needs of people, and the huge risk of overtraining and injury.

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

  • And I hear you on the optimism. I think I am at a place where I’m down on the industry at large. I’m sure I’ll snap back! BTW, I dugg and shared this post on Digg and they are liking it..apparenty…since it’s being “shared” right back to me, haha.

    I wrote a little thing about the “myth of optimal” once. I’ll try to dig it up and post it at my website. I linked this there.

  • Byrd

    I just read this thread today as I have been considering going to a CrossFit certification in May but am unsure of how worth the rest of the money it is. I have also considered funneling my money toward a more well-rounded certification that may be more effective. My problem, however, is that what is being discussed is that CrossFit cannot achieve a fitness specifically related to anything besides CrossFit. I have been training in this fashion for approximately seven months. When I started, it was everything I was looking for, and nearly everything that is not body-building, monotonous exercise. So, I do train for CrossFit, with the Workout of the Day (if it is one of the named “benchmark” workouts) it is essentially my sport. Furthermore, I am a firefighter by trade, and since seven months ago, I feel that I have achieved a fitness level that best prepares me for the unknown. I have an increased awareness and understanding of my body in space and how to use it appropriately to do a lot of work (something in which both CrossFit people as well as firefighters take a great deal of pride). I have begun to stray away from the main site and attempt some strength training in addition to metabolic conditioning in order to further my ability to get a lot of work done. I chose that path due to my small stature and the nature of my line of work.

    To my question: For those of us in need of truly functional training for non sport-specific athletic needs, is there a better way? I would like to mention that the type of training that I am 4 weeks into now is basically a “Hybrid”. Heavy strength training, short, heavy metabolic conditioning, and “skills practice”. I tried this program just to see what I was capable of doing…other than a lot of pullups…

    Thanks and I am really enjoying this “other view” as I work out in a facility that is not CrossFit affiliated but with people that have a mentality that this training is for and necessary for all people… even if one’s fitness goals are not in line with functional training. Any other directions you can point me for more points of view?

  • John

    Hi Byrd,

    On one hand, if you’re enjoying CrossFit, then stick with it.

    On the other hand, I know that CrossFit is dangerous especially if done long-term. There is an “always work extremely hard, even if it hurts mentality” that always leads to injury. Greg Glassman even says that CrossFit can kill you. So, from a longevity standpoint, CrossFit isn’t exactly the best fitness system out there. I don’t know about you, but I plan on being fit for the rest of my life, even if I live to 100 – and that includes being fit for the unknown.

    To answer your question, there are many other alternatives. CrossFit is DEFINITELY not the only way as many of their disciples would have you believe.

    Try looking into the International Kettlebell Fitness Federation – and Steve Cotter specifically (his work goes far beyond kettlebells). The Underground Strength Coach by Zach Even-Esh is also a great certification that may be what you’re interested in. I think his last CERT seminar is coming up, so you will have to hussle if this one piques your interest. Another option that is recently gaining some attention is Erwan Le Corre’s MovNat. I’ve been speaking with Erwan and he is bringing his system to the US, planning on having seminars this year and next. MovNat is very different from what we’re used to.

    If you are interested in longevity, then there’s nothing better than the Circular Strength Training certification seminar with Scott Sonnon. I’ll be attending the next one in August in Bellingham, Washington. CST really jives with me, and I’ve never encountered a system so complete for achieving fitness and athletic goals through the lens of putting health first. I’ve been practicing CST for about 3 years, and can’t say enough about it. This one gets my 100% approval!

    All the best,

    John

  • Tim Agan

    Hi John,

    I found your site by searching “Dangers of Cross Fit”. I find your thoughts to very refreshing. Even though we have not met we share the same perspectives/opinons regarding Cross Fit. I have been working in the Fire Service for the past 23 years. 10 of which I have been the Departments Health Fitness Coordinator. I over see the health, fitness and safety of over 200 firefighters.
    One of our members discoverd Cross Fit and is attempting to make Cross Fit the “only” workout program for all of the firefighters. I agree with your thoughts that there is not a “one program fits all”.

    Some concerns I have with Cross Fit is the intensity, not following proper form and Cross Fit is more of a cult than an exercise program.
    I have attempted to educate this individual about the Principal of Individualism, of Overload, of Progression, SAID, and individual goals. I have discussed the issues of proper form. This indiviual has the mentality of “The Cross Fit way or no way”. I have had discussions with other “Crossfitters” that share the same attidude.
    I am all for trying different traing programs. There are some positives that Cross Fit has to offer. But I think the Crossfitters need to understand that this type of traing might work for some but when you are dealing with a wide population as we do in the fire service (age, gender, medical issues, past and present injuries, individual goals) one size does not fit all.

    Foot note: I have been ivolved in the Health and Fitness industry for 20 years. I am a year away from getting my Bachelor Degree in Sport Management with a minior in Health and Wellness.

    John,
    Thanks for your insight and knowledge with Health and Fitness.

    Tim

  • John

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

    I’m glad that there are many people who will listen to reason out there, and it’s too bad that we’re facing many people holding dogmatic views when it comes to CrossFit. You make a good point that it works for some people. In fact, it’s perfect for some people, but not for everyone. I just hope crossfitters know what they’re getting themselves into when they join the ranks, because that kind of exercise is not sustainable long-term.

    Best of luck with your Sports Management work!

    Best regards,

    John

  • John,

    This is a well-balanced article. The problem I have with crossfit, especially in a group setting, is that it tends to attract the competitive (or former college athlete who is now really out of shape) and throw them to the lions, so to speak, without a proper ramp up and focus on good basic form and baseline strength building. One-on-one with a personal trainer, it is easier to ensure that the client stops when they lose form, or get too competitive, etc.

    I think, too, that there may be an untapped market out there for people who want to do crossfit all or some of the time, but know that they need to work up to it. You could totally offer this in a group setting.

    Hmmm…

    Chris

  • John

    Hi Chris,

    That’s a very good point about the competitive mindset.

    Competition is a good thing, but only when it’s balanced safely into a training program.

    Sounds like you’ve got a solid business idea. CrossFit is big enough now for mini-businesses like that to start branching off – in the right community.

    Best,

    John

  • Sean

    The cultish nature of Crossfit is a big red flag in my book. For the weak minded Crossfit becomes their religion and focus. Of course I am a bit biased since my wife drank the kool aid snd had an affair with one of the trainers and essentially ending our marriage. Also, for the would be affiliate, be very careful as Crossfit corporate has no problem allowing several affiliates from operating in very close proximity of one another. Many have and will go out if business.

  • Tom

    As a firefighter who has tried multiple training regimens (split routines, HIIT, long distance running/cardio) I have personally found CrossFit to be the best overall program I’ve ever encountered.

    People speak of how CrossFit only “makes you good at CrossFit”, and “doesn’t translate to specific tasks”. Personally, I find this to be wildly inaccurate. I am significantly more effective at my job now, and it is a direct result of CF. I lift patients safer, I carry my gear better, I have greater strength/task endurance, I recover quicker between evolutions, and I manage my air better.

    I shaved 4:00 off my 5k run in 2 months, utilizing only CrossFit and doing NO long distance running whatsoever. I ran a charity stair climbing event last month with absolute ease, utilizing NO stair training at all. There are many things I do better as a result of my training in CF; from prior experience with other “split” routines this would not have been the case.

    There are many fire departments who will testify the benefits of CrossFit. Many in my area are transitioning to it almost exclusively. One in particular has people who have been utilizing the program for 12 years. They enjoy long term health, which flies in the face of aforementioned accusations of CF being “bad in the long run”.

    They fought the battle with the “old timers” who said it “causes injuries”, then they realized those folks were going to bitch about any program presented to them and went for full implementation, and now have 90% buy in from their members. I have spoken to many of them personally, and they have no regrets. Guess what? Many of the former naysayers are now believers too.

    More importantly, said department has experienced an 80% reduction in long term incident related injuries since employing CF full time since 2006. Not a very long time, but I suspect the trend will be a long term one.

    Can you get hurt doing CF? Yes, absolutely. That is the risk you incur when partaking in any sport (yes, exercise is “sport” across many domains).

    Injuries are drastically reduced when you do things right and within your own limits. Don’t lift too much! Start out slow and work you way up! These are common sense principles whose blame, when so called “CrossFit injuries” occur, should be placed on the INDIVIDUAL, and not the program. There’s an idiot in every fitness village!

    Hell, I’ve been that idiot before…and it’s happened in and outside of CF. And when I go back and look at those injuries, know what the problem was? I wasn’t doing it right, or I went beyond my limitations. I was the problem, NOT the program.

    If some lardass tries to run 10 miles right off the bat and rolls an ankle, do we come down hard on running? What if same said idiot walks into a 24 hour fitness and tries to bench 300 pounds and blows his shoulder out, do we blame split routine weight training? Why do we treat CrossFit different?

    And before you blame the program for “long term injuries”, go mingle with a few long time joggers with blown knees, or Gold’s Gym junkies with shoulder tendonitis (or worse). Yep, their stuff don’t stink either. My roommate was a split routine+jogging junkie for years, and he’s all messed up.

    And guess what, their form breaks down a bit too when their working out. I’ve seen it…over and over again. If you aren’t tired working out, then you’re not working out. Again, being in tune with your limitations is key.

    Dogmatic beliefs? Please…ask anyone about their specific routine and they’ll tell you its “the best”. I got a buddy who last week was crowing to me about how great his jogging routine is, and how nothing else compares (we went for a 3 mile run and I smoked him…see “no running” paragraph above) and he couldn’t be told otherwise. My dad is the same way. We all do what works for us, and stick to our guns on what we’re passionate about. Some of us have found something that we’re just a bit more passionate about. Do you have a problem with that?

    This is the same crap we in the fire service encounter when talking about so-called “unsafe” activities (Vertical Ventilation is a perfect example). Usually the people voicing concerns have completely asinine reasons when voicing them. The same people that hate CrossFit are often the same people who don’t think we should go into burning buildings, or on top of them.

    Regarding Circular Strength Training (AKA “TacFit”). It is funny I came across this today; someone at my department suggested I look into it. Our department is working on updating our physical fitness program. Guy who told me about it thinks people may perceive CF as “dangerous” and said to look into it.

    I will look into it, and you know what? If it is better for ME, my career, my health, and the fire service I’ll put my stamp of approval and passion to it.

    Because that’s the bottom line…I do what I feel is best for myself and my career…and currently CrossFit is it…and there is NO close comparison.

  • Jeremy

    I too have experienced the dogmatic attitudes of crossfitters. Whether discussing fitness or nutrition, there is no room for free thought. Fitness = Crossfit. Nutrition = Zone/Paleo. The End. There is no room for anything else, if you think there is that’s because you’re obviously an ignorant fool. Talking with a crossfitter is like talking to that crazy political guy we’ve all met or your local religious freak. You know who I’m talking about, they tend to use the word “sheeple” in every other sentence and the one thing they’re certain of is that they know what’s best for everyone.

    • Sean R

      What we need is someone outside of crossfit to win the games and prove crossfit is not the only way

      • David

        A non-crossfitter will probably not win the crossfit games because everything is catered to what they do on a daily basis. Sort of like asking a crossfitter to beat a basketball or football player at their “sport”.

        Having said that, I have placed in the top percentile of workout productivity the four or five times I’ve switched it up and worked out at my local crossfit gym. Each time I noticed I almost got the best total reps/nearly the best time every time I did their “super workouts”. Yes, they were extremely hard workouts but I’ll keep my $150 and still look more physically fit than 99% of the guys in that gym and know I’m nearly as productive with their silly programs.

        Are all Crossfit gyms so cult-like or just the one I went to?

  • Scott

    I think what needs to be understood about CrossFit is that while it involves hyper intense short workouts any trainer worth their certification won’t throw a prospective client to the wolves on day one. The idea that on your first day you could expect to complete some of the baseline WODs is ludicrous for many reasons. The gradual progression in any fitness routine and CrossFit is no different in that aspect.

  • Eric

    I find this article a little funny.

    first off I agree with Tom, the firefigher here, anything you do is dangerous, and as long as you are smart about your own body, then injuries are kept to a minimum.

    Also the OP mentions how CF will not make you a better MMA fighter, well, I guess that’s why world class Brazillian Jui-Jitsu black belt and UFC competitor BJ Penn uses CF, as well as many of thr MMA gyms I’ve been looking into.

    As far as CF trainers just tossing newbies into a standardized, while generalized workout regime that will hurt them, well, that comment only shows how little researh you’ve actually done. Every CF gym I’ve ever seen has a mandatory 4, 30 min fundamentals program before they allow you to workout with them, which is a 1on1 setting where your skills are assesed by a certified trainer, so when you do workout you use the 12lbs medicine ball instead of the 20 for example, who also is devoted to showing proper technique for core workouts(not to mention intervention to poor form there out), and since all workouts are supervised in a classroom type setting, unlike your standard globogym there is even less chance to hurt yourself, again while workig properly.

    Along with firefighters, law enforcement and military have been picking up CF, they are all seeing the benifits that CF has to offer, law enforcement for example needs to be able to run, lift suspects and helpless civilians, or the downed officer from harm, have incredible dexterity to execute joint locks, gymnastic ability, to scale fences walls and other obsticles, and the stamina/endurance to be able to do so longer than the “bad guy”, because when out on the streets there is absolutely no way to tell if the next stop is going to be the average Joe, or black belt with ill intentions.

    Being ready for anything is the only way to prepare, and strength training won’t get you anywhere near as ready as CrossFit.

    I really do not see how it could become a cult, you need to have a really pathetic existance to focus upon something to a point where you lose everything. I guess there are mentally weaker individuals out there.

    Point is. Be safe, ad take things at your pace, like any other program, an you will not get injured. Until something else pops up that will prepare me for the unknown greater than CF, I will do it, becuase my fitness is not only my own, but the partner I am with in the streets. They depend on me as much ad I need to be confident in their ability.

    From my iPhone.
    Eric

  • Stephanie

    Myself as well as my husband began a CrossFit program about 2 weeks ago. I have attended two of the “fundamentals” classes. My husband, on the other hand, only attended one. The trainer assessed him at the initial class and felt he was capable of moving on to the “regular” class. The statement made by Eric about the required 4 fundamentals classes was not true in his case! My husband has to date attended 2 of the regular classes.

    Today, my husband is in the hospital with Rhabdomyolysis! His doctors are concerned about the possibility of kidney and liver failure.

    Do I feel the CrossFit program or the CrossFit trainer is responsible for his condition? Not solely. I am an adult, as is he, so I realize that he had control over his body and had a right and responsibility to say, “whoa, this is too much too soon.” However, he got wrapped up in the “you can do this” mentality that was oozing from the other participants and he pushed himself to perform and keep up with the group. I do feel the program failed in that the potential dangers involved in undertaking such a rigorous and strenuous training program were never discussed. He nor I were never told to take it at our own pace, or lift what we can, or let our bodies be our guide like I have been told by trainers in the past. Instead, we were encouraged to finish, give more, dig deeper.

    I feel strongly that any person considering engaging in this program should undergo an “information session” explaining to them the tenets of this program, the possible risks involved, and be encouraged to step back and say “hey, this is to much for me right now. I need to rest, or drop some weight, etc…” Until this happened, I had no idea exercise could have such a rapid, detrimental effect on the body. I presume most “common” people do not either and need to be educated on this. The CrossFit website does talk about this subject, but not openly. It is buried in an old newsletter. After doing my own research, I have found multiple posts from people who have suffered this condition after a CrossFit session and even a few from spouses or friends of participants who have died from kidney failure. This is serious and needs to be addressed!

    • John

      Hi Stephanie,

      I’m sorry to hear about your husband, but thank you for sharing your story, which is not all that uncommon.

      I just wanted to clarify something that you said. Exercise itself does not cause “rapid, detrimental effects on the body.” Exercise, done properly, should improve health – not deteriorate it. This is the entire basis of health-first fitness. It’s the CrossFit system of exercise that is detrimental to health because it is performance-first, not health-first. It’s a system where you take some health benefits in exchange for some health consequences – and I agree that all new CrossFitters should be informed about the risks.

      Best of luck to your husband.

      Best regards,

      John

  • Sean R

    I recall watching a video on crossfit endurance were a guy doing mostly crossfit wod’s and very little running was able to finish a 100mile ultra marathon. I agree crossfit could do a little better on the safety side of things and can not beat Tacfit on range of motion stuff.On the other hand when you look at those not getting hurt and those placing at or near the top of the crossfit games there workout and weightlifting numbers are very impressive to look at

  • Joel

    Excellent article, John. I am an Olympic weightlifter (WL) and one thing I (mildly) “like” about CF is the fact that they popularized WL lifts such as Clean & Jerk and Snatch. But I also cringe whenever I see CFers on youtube do multiple reps of their version of power clean aka “jumping-reverse-power-curls-as-you-hold-the-bar-with-your-bent-wrists-and-hips-forward-while-you-lean-on-an-imaginary-incline-bench-30-reps-in-ten-seconds.” CF certainly did an excellent job bastardizing the sport of Olympic WL.

    Oh, the other thing I like about CF is that it turns women HOT. (But the men look like they just got out of a POW camp.)

    To Stephanie – sorry to hear about your husband.

  • tezza g

    love the site mate!! i just lookin to know there’s a cert 1 coming up close to me and im wondering have i to be affiliated with crossfit teach because im goin to be opening my own gym soon i want to bring it into my classes!!

  • Kevin

    Late reply but here goes…

    I belonged to a CrossFit gym for about 1.5 years. I really liked the intensity of the workouts and it opened my eyes to another side of fitness (it was different from a typical weight routine).

    My .$02 is…I have had several personal trainers in my life (covering about 5 years) but by no means do I consider myself a trainer or an expert on exercise or workouts…however, I have learned quite a lot while working with the trainers especially on form and technique. Fast-forward to CrossFit. I think it’s great in moderation and with good form. Too many people got there who don’t practice good form or technique (usually racing the stopwatch of the guy/gal next to them). I saw a lot of people hammering away putting themselves at risk (I was not perfect either). One of CrossFit’s claim is that “where else can you have a personal trainer at every workout!?”…while this is partially true, usually the “trainer” had 15 other people to watch and sometimes the trainer wasn’t even watching anyone…..lots of gray area there.

    I have recently thought of going back to Crossfit after a year away. This time I will take a different approach to it and use it as one of many tools to achieve fitness, not just one.

  • Kevin

    Just to add to what I said in my other post…….Crossfit is without a doubt a great workout. I’ve read a few posts talking about the fundamentals class that you take before doing the WODs. My opinion is that while the intent is there to show correct form, you’re not going to fix someone (in a few classes) who has been doing (i.e. a squat or dead lift) something wrong for months, or years previous, it’s only going to make something that is already weak, weaker…..I guess the same can be said about any workout routine though.

    My advise to people considering Crossfit….work on form and technique for a while (6 months) after getting some kind of professional advise. After that, work on your own for a while at a regular gym. Then by all means knock yourself out at Crossfit. Monitor yourself the whole way and be self aware.